THEME: “Jesus said, ‘Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’” (Matthew 25:13)

By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

Matthew 25:1-13

“A passenger in a taxi leaned over to ask the driver a question and tapped him on the shoulder. The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus, drove up over the curb, and stopped just inches from a large plate glass window. For a few moments everything was silent in the cab, and then the still shaking driver said, ‘I’m sorry, but you scared the daylights out of me.’ The frightened passenger apologized to the driver and said he didn’t realize a mere tap on the shoulder could frighten him so much. The driver replied, ‘No, no, I’m sorry. It’s entirely my fault. Today is my first day driving a cab. I’ve been driving a hearse for the last 25 years.’” (Original source unknown)


Sometimes, it seems, life can just jump right out at us when we’d expected something far less dynamic. Like the veteran hearse driver, we’d become accustomed to a peaceful journey through our daily rituals when, all of a sudden, a startling tap on the shoulder from a seeming ghost shatters our reverie and nearly sends us over the edge. And while we can chuckle at this humorous story, we know that it’s also the not-so-humorous narrative of God’s startling entry into our own lives, The Divine reaching out and tapping us on the shoulder at the very moment we thought ourselves on a solitary and peaceful drive through the scenic countryside. In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus offers his disciples a parable on the necessity of remaining alert for God’s dramatic entries, concluding with the admonition, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)

While newsworthy drama sometimes characterizes our encounters with God, more often God’s entry into a life, while dramatic for the one directly touched, is practically invisible to anyone else, the work of The Divine no less startling, but surely more private. I was party to such a holy revelation when Marge, a fellow hospital chaplain of exuberant personality, hobbled into the office and sat to chat over a cup of coffee. Discouraged by an ankle injury that seemed to resist healing, she told me following her first gulp of coffee that she really needed to follow her doctor’s recommendation and rest her foot lots more. Then, after a second gulp, seemingly in direct contradiction, she said she really had to be on her way, that there were handfuls of patients she needed to visit on several floors.

As she chugged her remaining gulp, I thought to ask, “Marge, where’s God in all this? What’s God saying to you in an ankle that won’t heal because you won’t give it the rest it needs?” For a moment she exhibited the proverbial deer in the headlights glazed stare. I continued a gentle challenge, “You know, Marge, your experience reminds me of the gospel story of Martha and Mary. Your mind and heart, like Martha’s, want to be so busy about so many important things, but your bum ankle is Mary, insisting that you slow your labors and rest. I don’t think you have too much choice about this. Right now, you have to be a Mary, not a Martha.”

Her glazed stare now communicating some resentment, she said, “You’re probably right, but I don’t want to be a Mary. I have things to do, lots of patients to see.” Responding, I said, “Well, maybe God has other plans for you while you rest and let that ankle heal.” Her bubbly laughter returning now, she rose shakily from her seat and asked, “Do you know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”

Jesus once said to his disciples and now says to each of us, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13) God continually seeks entry into our frenetic lives, his open door very often inviting us into an experience that knocks us off center, causing us to ask the deep questions that we’ve tried hard to avoid. His entry can leave us shaken to the core, our lives a floundering craft on the stormy sea. And it’s only then that faintly can we hear his quiet voice, “Let me be your anchor. Please, let me be your anchor.”



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